More than 1,000 signatures have already been collected in a bid to stop the sale of Bretby Crematorium.
Labour councillors and volunteers braved the wet weather in Swadlincote’s High Street on Saturday in a bid to drum up opposition to the controversial proposed sale of the council-owned Geary Lane site.
Kevin Richards, Labour Party leader at South Derbyshire District Council said: “In less than three hours we collected more than 1,000 signatures and that was with some awful weather so many people didn’t turn out to walk the High Street.
“We will be stepping up the campaign and hope to collect as many signatures as possible throughout the district in the next few weeks before the next meeting of the district council’s finance and management committee where it may be raised for a decision. We hope to encourage colleagues in East Staffordshire to do the same.
“People power does work as proved in the recent discussions of the Coalition Government to sell off the National Forest.
So let’s hope for good weather and that the people keep coming out to sign our petition.”
Concerns began 18 months ago when an ‘interested’ party approached East Staffordshire Borough Council with a view to buying the site.
Council bosses have said they were ‘duty bound’ to seek other interest, and recently Midland Co-op has proposed to pay £8 million for the site, with an extra £250,000 to spend revamping the crematorium.
Worried residents and protestors, as well as opposition party councillors, have stressed the importance of not selling the site to a private company believing it would eliminate competition and increase prices. There are also concerns over ashes scattered on the grounds and memorial trees.
In an open discussion with the Mail, Andy O’Brien, chief executive of the borough council, and council leader, Tory councillor Richard Grosvenor, said the company would sign a contract requiring it to protect the land and the trees, leaving them untouched.
Both men were also questioned over price increase worries. The chief executive said: “We are in negotiations with the company to try to control the prices. They will try to tag their increase to an average of all the crematoriums in a 30-mile radius. Bretby is the average and will remain the average. If utility costs change then prices would increase.”